A Cure for All That Ails You? 

Despite the healing powers of umbilical cord blood, those who pay thousands to bank it for the future may be the least likely to benefit. By Kara Platoni

Page 7 of 7

Cord blood also is being tested on a far more common condition. The American Diabetes Association recently announced preliminary results from a small pilot study in which cord-blood infusions appeared to slow the progress of juvenile diabetes. Perhaps, the researchers theorize, it slows the destruction of insulin-producing cells, but further study is needed.

It's exciting to imagine regenerative uses for cord blood, but they remain unproven. In the meantime, doctors say they can already do much good using available cord-blood methods — enough to warrant expansion of the public banks. "Until science advances to where there is really evidence that your own autologous cord blood could be used for regenerative repair, unless there is a family disease that is potentially curable with a cord-blood transplant, people who want to donate should donate for the greater good of the public," says cord-blood pioneer Mitchell Cairo of New York Presbyterian. "There is currently a huge need for patients worldwide to have access to unrelated cord blood." The physician notes that fewer than three hundred thousand cord-blood units have been stored worldwide, while bone-marrow and regular blood-bank donor registries run more than ten million listings.

Even so, it's hard to compete with the attraction of security for your own family, for that security — not utility — is ultimately what the commercial banks are selling. Oddly enough, despite all the sales pitches designed to convince parents that cord blood is useful, it's infinitely more comforting to think of it as something you won't ever have to defrost. When Rose Barrett considers the cord blood she banked for her two kids, she's perfectly content to have paid for something still sitting untouched in an Arizona freezer. "The best use of my money would be if we never needed it," she says.

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